Day 29: Spying Exotic Hummingbirds in Brazil

Hummers flock to a feeder that goes through up to 10 pounds of sugar daily.

January 29, 2015, Cuiaba, Brazil — Strategically, this year is a delicate balance between logistics and birding: Ideally, I will spend just long enough in each place to see a bunch of birds before moving onward. I planned most of my itinerary in advance, which involved a lot of research and some guesswork. So far, I’m doing pretty well; I’m ahead of the 14-new-birds-a-day pace I need to maintain to reach 5,000—though it will get harder as the easy ones are checked off.

Early this morning, Rene and I visited a superb hummingbird feeder setup near Ubatuba. It’s maintained by a man named Jonas who said his hummers consume two to ten pounds of sugar each day (plus water). We saw nine species at the feeders, including emeralds, rubies, sapphires, coquettes, mangos, hermits, woodnymphs, and jacobins - hummingbirds have great names! Then we just had time to spend a few minutes in the nearby forest before making the four-hour drive back to Sao Paulo so I could catch my afternoon flight to Cuiaba. That’s where I start wondering about logistics: Was it worth driving that far for a few hummingbirds, or would I have seen more birds by sticking closer to Sao Paulo for the past two days? I suppose everything will average out over time.

Rene has been an interesting companion for the past two days. He’s a 34-year-old bird lover from Sao Paulo with a Spix’s Macaw tattooed on his shoulder and the phrase “Extinction is Forever” written in Portuguese on the spare tire of his Jeep. He loves surfing and capoeira (a Brazilian martial art and dance that involves almost no contact), and, unlike most Brazilians, dislikes both football (er, soccer) and Carnival. In the U.S. we often characterize birding as a hobby for old white folks, but this guy breaks pretty much every birdwatching stereotype. Hanging out with locals like Rene is certainly enlightening; the birding subculture is much different in Brazil (heavier on photography, business, and science, and lighter on personal listing) and I will be curious to see how things change as I travel onward.


New birds today: 11

Year list: 617

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